Saturday, May 23, 2009

Judge Grants Injunction to Save Qunnipiac Volleyball

Quinnipiac University women's volleyball will remain a varsity sport, for another season anyway, after federal district court judge Stephan Underhill granted the preliminary injunction the team was seeking to stave off the university's effort to terminate the sport for budgetary reasons.

The judge determined that the volleyball plaintiffs satisfied their burden of showing a likely success on the merits of their claim that QU cannot cut women's volleyball and still comply with Title IX, which for QU meant demonstrating proportionality in the number of athletic opportunities afforded to women and men. Though the judge was not persuaded by the plaintiffs' challenge to QU's plans to count newly-added competitive cheerleading squad as athletic opportunities (he stated that they "do not appear likely to prevail" in that argument) he did agree that QU likely would not satisfy the proportionality test because of its roster management policy. "The plaintiffs in this case offered credible testimony that the athletic department’s roster management numbers did not accurately reflect the actual number of genuine participation opportunities available to both genders at Quinnipiac," the judge wrote in the ruling. The practice of setting minimum "floors" for women's teams, in particular, did not create "genuine opportunities to participate." In the case of women's softball, for example, those extra players added for proportionality purposes were cut from the team after the first day of the season, when numbers are reported. On the other side, QU instituted caps the size of on some of their men's teams, which also proved meaningless because players were added above the cap after the numbers were reported on the first day of the season. Thus, said, the judge, he had "no confidence" that the numbers QU reported to the Department of Education under the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, which provided the basis for QU's proportionality calculations, were accurate reflection of athletic opportuntities at QU.

Litigation is not over, as the court will now proceed to evaluate the merits of the plaintiffs' case for a permanent injunction. I haven't seen a timetable, but I expect the court will issue one relatively soon.